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May 22, 2024

Tweed Council ‘opt in’ to States agritourism – with conditions

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The State government is driving the move behind allowing an increase of activities on farms throughout the state including weddings, camping, farm door tastings and more but Tweed Council is concerned at the way it has been developed and the lack of community consultation. The Tweed Councillors were once again working through the concerns over the SEPP.

Both Councillors Warren Polglase (Conservative) and Meredith Dennis (Independent) said that the process had been ‘confusing’ with Cr Polglase saying ‘that we believe that the State government are out of step’ at Tweed Shire Council meeting last week.

The Agritourism Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) exempt development conditions come in from July 1, the question is will Tweed Council ‘opt-in’ to the optional clauses on ‘farm stay accommodation’ and ‘farm gate premises’ (previously called ‘farm gate activities’).

‘As far as I understand for exempt development events up to 50 people including weddings, ten times a year. Farmstay accommodation with caravans and temporary structures allowing 20 people staying on the property – that’s all exempt,’ said Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent).

The question around opting into the ‘optional clauses’ was a challenge as the State government has not clearly explained what those conditions will be and further clarified that they will not be putting these further optional clauses out for community consultation and feedback once they have decided on them. 

Of the other 128 councils in NSW only 41 have opted in.


Councillor Dr Noala Firth (Greens) put forward a motion to ‘opt out’ pf the conditional clauses, seconded by Cr Meredith Dennis (Independent). 

‘I am, as I said last meeting, very, very concerned about this agritourism initiative that we have been asked to opt into. It’s not that I don’t want to support farmers, I do,’ Cr Firth told the meeting.

‘I am concerned because of the lack of clarity around this particular initiative. Even last meeting we were still finding out whether or not the exempt and complying measures were going to have community consultation or any consultation on [them]. We have now found out that we won’t have a consultation on exempt initiatives in it [the SEPP]. And we don’t really know what the exempt measures are and we are not going to be told until they are going to happen.

State Significant Farmland impacted

‘We know that it is likely to have up to 500m2 of buildings, not necessarily the one building but of buildings, on land, including RU1 land, including state significant farmland (SSF), which really bothers me. To have it happening without us having a chance, as a community, to talk about it I find shocking to be honest. 

‘We have an item later in the agenda to discuss an item with problems people have with a wedding venue. Weddings is another thing to happen, possibly up to 50 people. 

‘These things, it seems to me, are being imposed by the state.

‘I know that we have talked in the past with a previous motion having various caveats where we are trying to have some control over what is happening. Those caveats only apply to the development applications, they do not apply to the exempt measures. We are not even sure if those caveats would be accepted at this late stage. I really want us to opt-out and then to begin a planning proposal for farmers for what we want.’

Alternative motion to ‘opt-in’

Councillor Rhiannon Brinsmead (Liberal) put an amendment, seconded by Mayor Cherry, to ‘opt-in’ to the optional clauses with conditions, that if not met then the council would automatically opt-out. 

‘I certainly share Cr Firth’s concerns with opting in without the provisions that we would be putting forth. Therefore, my amendment is that we don’t opt in unless the State government can guarantee they are willing to incorporate that following requests that we have made. I just wanted to make clear that it is all of those provisions, that it is not a pick and chose from the State government, that it is an all or nothing.’ 

Additional conditions

These additional conditions were particularly focussed on ensuring that any additional activities were secondary to the primary production or farming activity on the farm and that they not be the primary activity. The amendment further stipulated that ‘The proposed Code’s SEPP relating to exempt and complying development provisions to be excluded from State Significant farmland’ and that the new definitions only apply to RU1 and RU2 zones. 

The additional amendment conditions were:

5.23 Farm Stay Accommodation 

  1. c) to enhance the viability and capacity of the land for primary production purposes 
  2. d) to provide for low scale, low impact, unobtrusive and sustainable uses of the land 
  3. e) to enhance the environment, restore wildlife corridors and waterways, and ensure no adverse environmental impacts 
  4. f) to ensure that agritourism uses are secondary to the primary use of primary production 
  5. g) to ensure State Significant and Regionally Significant farmlands continue to be utilised primarily for primary production.

5.24 Farm Experiences 

  1. c) to enhance the viability and capacity of the land for primary production purposes 
  2. d) to provide small scale, low impact, unobtrusive and sustainable uses of the land 
  3. e) to enhance the environment, restore wildlife corridors and waterways, and ensure no adverse environmental impacts 
  4. f) to ensure that agritourism uses are secondary to the primary use of primary production 
  5. g) to ensure State Significant and Regionally Significant farmlands continue to be utilised primarily for primary production.’

‘Either way the exempt development conditions come in from the first of July. This is about the complying development consent [a development that requires a development application],’ explained Mayor Cherry. 

Mayor Cherry went on to say that council is very supportive of trying to help farmers make good use of their land for primary production and that the provision of a secondary income helps them get through difficult times.

‘I think it is not good this is being forced on us,’ said Cr James Owen (Liberal). ‘We’ve not had a chance to go to the community. I know another 40 councils have opted out and I hope the State government gets the message loud and clear.’

However, Owen’s said the councillors had come up with what he believed the community would have wanted in their amendments. 

The original motion to opt-out was lost with Crs Firth and Dennis voting in favour of opting out. The Amendment then became the motion and was passed with only Cr Firth voting against it.

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  1. Some say the NSW State government is stepping up in allowing more activity on farms throughout the state. That is one step and the view from Macquarie Street in Sydney in allowing on farms more weddings, camping, and farm door tastings.
    But from this end that view is soggy and a bit unstable for Tweed Shire Council are still concerned about the SEPP.

  2. The Farm Stay and Farm Gate Premises options would give farmers along the Rail Trail the opportunity to test their concepts before considering a full development and the substantial costs involved.

    It would also allow these activities to get underway right from the opening of the trail rather than having nothing like them to offer to visitors until formal projects were completed. I believe it is important for the trail.


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